India-Israel defence ties are likely to receive a boost with the third joint working group meeting held today in Tel Aviv. Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh led the eight-member Indian side.
Israel is understood to be keen on pitting its F-16 fighters against the IAF’s Su-30s in a joint exercise next year. Its other proposals include a marketing tie-up for Hindustan Aeronautics-made MiG-21UM trainer jets, the sale of new generation Heron UAVs and joint development of the Barak-II ship defence missile.
South Block — which is traditionally silent on defence issues involving Israel — said the JWG, which met Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Defence Ministry Director General Amos Yaron today, was on a routine visit. Sources said the strategic aspects of discussions, including the proposed air exercises, would underscore the meeting at least from Israel’s side, while India would review the list of proposals from the defence industry.
Tel Aviv’s proposals include Israel’s upgradation of IAF Cheetah helicopters using avionics used in the indigenous ALH Dhruv helicopter. HAL already has a tie-up with IAI to market the helicopters to other countries, including Chile and Malaysia, which have expressed interest.
Israel has also offered to upgrade the Indian Navy’s Tu-142 maritime patrol planes in a tripartite agreement with Russia, though the latter has stalled the process. Ongoing trials of Israeli equipment for the IAF include Lahat anti-tank missiles for the indigenous Arjun battle tank, Crystal Maze laser-guided bombs and Pop-Eye beyond visual range missiles.
Israeli arms manufacturer Soltam has also announced its intention to enter into a joint venture with an Indian firm in Bangalore to manufacture military binoculars.
Defence deals with Israel this year included India signing up to buy Phalcon AWACs systems from Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI).
Israel and India recently held a dialogue on anti-terrorism, considered by Tel Aviv to be the cornerstone of future relations, in a year marked by a flurry of high-profile visits.